Singapore music reviews: Tay Kewei, Charlie Lim & omarKENOBI & FZPZ, Haneri & Ljung, Louie Indigo & Kid Meddling, Marijannah, Nick Zavior, Trust the Chaos, Haven and Jeremy Chua

Singapore music reviews: Tay Kewei, Charlie Lim & omarKENOBI & FZPZ, Haneri & Ljung, Louie Indigo & Kid Meddling, Marijannah, Nick Zavior, Trust the Chaos, Haven and Jeremy Chua

Every Friday, many local musicians release new music that flies under the radar. To bring you the best new local music releases this weekend, we've compiled a playlist featuring some of the newest songs out from artists such as Tay Kewei, Charlie Lim & omarKENOBI & FZPZ, Haneri & Ljung, Louie Indigo & Kid Meddling, Marijannah, Nick Zavior, Trust the Chaos, Haven, and Jeremy Chua

Louie Indigo and Kidmeddling – ‘Cold World’

Look around you: It’s a cold world. But this is the rare song that transfigures music into comfort food to nourish the soul, while contemplating the merciless nature of the world unblinkingly.

Both forces play their part dashingly in this dynamic: The producer Kidmeddling, weaves a playful-but-heady mesh of sound with runaway strings and synth accents that carouse around thick slabs of bass and snares. Then, there’s Louie, who’s able to distill the trauma of lived experience and the lessons learned the hard way into a hook-bedecked, instantly quotable showcase. Coming from him, the pledge, “Rather be judged by 12 than carried by six”, bestows the distance between the penitentiary and the casket with a cinematic gravity and its own reverberating revelations.

Nick Zavior – ‘I Want You the Way You Are’

Nick Zavior is in love – and he’s shouting about it from the rooftops.

This is what falling in love sounds like. Before genres bled into each other, pulled into a digitally shaped idea of contemporaneity, un-cynical, pure, Will-you-marry-me? sentiments were the province of pop. ‘I Want You the Way You Are’ adheres to the rules of that universe; it’s a love letter written in ink from a time-honoured tradition only artists of a particular doe-eyed veneer can and will attempt. The great pop world-builder Bruno Mars is one of them – so is Nick Zavior.

Over a luxe funked-out Chris Grosse beatscape, spectral in its scale and shimmer but burningly earthy in its sweet, smouldering intensity, Zavoir both affirms the perfection of his beloved and how their natural state is itself perfection to him: “You’re the only thing that makes me feel alive”. His love and his resplendent, clear-eyed articulation of it are inspiring and infectious.

Haneri and Ljung– ‘Photograph’

We live in a time when the platform has pushed the needle into cultivating a new sound: Spotify-core. It’s the sound of the much-advertised now, born of algorithms and analytics, based on the most empirical metrics of taste yet at the same time, transcending it entirely. In the last two years, especially, it’s come under heavy scrutiny by the critical press. But in the hands of Haneri and Ljung, its case as a new-frontier pop phenomenon is given convincing heft.

‘Photograph’ presents the perfect union of sound and feeling. That alignment is the source of the song’s transportive power. Haneri, or, her voice, more specifically, is the muse that animates the hyper-produced, festival-ready soundscape with its lilting life force. “Forget tomorrow / forget it all”, she coos amidst a surging tide of chilled-out tropical-adjacent sounds, her lovely call urging the free fall into a new matrix of blissed-out possibilities. For a narrative that’s consequence-averse, it brims with hope.

Charlie Lim– ‘Better Dead Than a Damsel feat. omarKENOBI (fzpz remix)’

‘Remix’ is the musical equivalent of “God mode”. When applied, as it is here, on one of the best songs off Lim’s 2018 album CHECK-HOOK, it gives the song and its players a chance to live again, and, more crucially, anew.

As the primary architect of this new scenario, fzpz flips the script on the song, entirely. Where the original was forged in a crucible of hip-hop, house and R&B and sprinkled with melancholia of a palpably nocturnal shade, this new iteration is a shapeshifting diptych of lush, blues-accented soul – a sumptuous guitar solo descends on the mix like a ray of light – and futuristic rap, ice-cold in its bleak intensity. YUNG RAJA and FARIZ JABBA, who grace the first version of the song, are traded in for oMARKENOBI, who first appears in a robotic guise, a dashing counterpoint to Lim’s pained reflective veneer, and then, as his magnificently swaggering self.

Songs like this can only exist because of the expansiveness and generosity of the vision of its makers. I am personally grateful to the trinity of Charlie Lim, omarKENOBI and fzpz for this one.

Marijannah– ‘Shapeless’

Marijannah’s greatest and most formidable advantage is its capacity for nuance even as its realisation is delivered with the intensity of a battering ram.

It’s not even as if the subtlety of the narrative’s existential miasma occurs as an accident within the nuclear explosion of sludgy guitars, seismic bass and megaton drums. This armada of sound is an homage to John Carpenter’s 1982 monster feature The Thing, to the cosmic hopelessness that its protagonists R.J. MacReady and Childs encounter as they await their fate in Antarctica. But even without that context, the nature of this song gives it a supreme measure of translatability. The humanity of its songwriting is a florid and compelling analogy to being crushed by the weight of the world – which is so multi-form, it may as well be shapeless.

Tay Kewei – ‘念念不忘’

Love has been the indisputable, timeless core that pop music has revolved around, and it has long since surpassed mere cliché. Because it has often been the driving force of the tragedies that dwell in lovelorn ballads, particularly in Mandopop, Tay Kewei’s ‘念念不忘’ stands out as an exuberant pop number that celebrates the resplendence of love.

‘念念不忘’ opens with an unexpected Erhu solo, reminiscent of the likes of Jay Chou’s distinctive music style interwoven with traditional Chinese instruments. Subsequently, it takes on a wholly disparate trajectory, unfurling with shimmering, disco-tinged synths and uptempo, chiming beats, carrying that simmering ebullience through its sparkling hooks. Tay’s vivid, pop-tinged vocals complete the scintillating image of romance and amplifies its defining trait: A lover will always yearn for what has passed and what is to come, for love is but a marker of time, evoking both nostalgia and anticipation.

Haven – ‘Piece of Paper’

The power of music lies in its capacity to convey the universal struggles and anxieties in society, and to open a portal to systemic changes. In ‘Piece of Paper’, Haven places her frustrations over the ineludible sprint after paper qualifications on a podium for the world to see, fleshing out the collective sufferings in modern society today with her voice.

The combination of Haven’s dreamy, limpid vocals and the nocturnal soundscape creates an utterly surreal and devastating experience. Leading in with thumping bass beats and unfolding with her airy coos, the track builds towards an all-encompassing, murky bleakness that endlessly compresses unto itself and ends with inescapable finality: “A piece of paper makes it real (we’re lost in the transaction) / All I have is what I feel”.

Trust the Chaos – ‘Compass'

As the pool of diversity swells in the ecosystem of music, the purism of genre has dissolved and all we are left with are the evolved versions of their primordial dispositions and their crossovers. Trust the Chaos transports us back in time with its unapologetically rock sound reminiscent of Meteora-era Linkin Park.

“At the bottom you shall not remain / from the ashes / your spark will rise to a flame” – Sometimes, rebirth is the only option. An empowering anthem about overcoming fear and finding one’s direction, the track exudes a gallantry that makes itself apparent in decibel and message. Gritty, almost-guttural vocals brim with an unrivalled persuasion and ride upon heart-thumping beats and electrifying guitar riffs. ‘Compass’, with its disarming, sonic frankness, strips away all glamour from resurrection and transforms it into life’s sole purpose, compelling us to believe.

Jeremy Chua – ‘Better Hands’

‘Better Hands’ is a love letter to a connection that has long-since dissipated. What is more heartbreaking is the lingering tenderness of the author and the knowledge that this track will likely not change anything.

An image of a lonely figure waltzing solo in a small, windowless room comes to mind as the track quietly unravels. Stripped-back and vulnerable, the lovelorn track amplifies the inexorable tragedies that await in love, revolving around the emotional core that is lyrical heartache: “I hope you'll find better hands for your heart than mine”. Jeremy Chua’s gentle, feather-like croons float above soft guitar strums, wholly devoid of bitterness but brimming with longing, still.